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Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan

Published 1997

Status and Action Plan of Baird's Tapir
(Tapirus bairdi)

continued from Previous Page

El Salvador


Deforestation was rampant in El Salvador and very little tropical forest remains. The 1982 Red Data Book reported Baird's tapir as extinct in El Salvador (Thornback and Jenkins 1982) but no further details were given. Apart from habitat loss, war may also have affected tapir populations in this country. Sites with potential habitat for Baird's tapir in El Salvador are Parque Nacional El Imposible (c. 30km2 of tropical moist forests). Assuming tapirs lived in abundances similar to those reported by Fragoso (1991a) and Williams (1984), there would be only 2-7 tapirs in El Imposible and 1-5 tapirs in Montecristo. Montecristo is adjacent to forests in Honduras and Guatemala (El Trifinio), which could potentially improve the prospects of tapirs in that area. Clearly, even if the species is not yet extinct, the prospects for conservation of tapir in El Salvador are not good. New surveys are needed.


Past deforestation has almost completely eliminated the habitat available for tapirs in El Salvador. There is no recent information about the species in this country.



Little fieldwork has been done in Honduras in order to attain population estimates of Baird's tapir. In August 1987 most of the country's montane forests were declared as protected (Congreso Nacional de Honduras 1987). Most of these areas may have potential tapir habitat.

Only those areas in Honduras which are protected areas and their immediate surroundings are reported to have tapir activity. However, tapirs are not represented in all protected areas (Chalukian in litt.). As a result of his survey work, Marineros (pers. comm.) estimates between 1000 to 2000 tapirs living within protected areas of Honduras. More field studies are needed in order to confirm this information.

In northeastern Honduras bordering Rio Coco and northeastern Nicaragua is the Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve. The Tawahka Biosphere Reserve borders this same Biosphere Reserve to the southwest, and south of Tawahka is Patuca National Park. These three areas provide over 6000km2 of protected lands, which is suitable habitat to support healthy populations of Baird's tapir. Assuming tapirs lived in abundances similar to those reported by Fragoso (1991a) and Williams (1984), there would be a potential population of 300-1440 animals in 6000km2 of habitat. T. Carr counted 47 tapir events (tracks, feces, and live individuals) during a trip along the Rio Plátano (R. Barongo pers. comm.) Recent colonization into these areas will put pressure on wildlife populations found there.

Conservation laws and education

As mentioned above, in August 1987 most of the country's montane forests were declared protected (Congreso Nacional de Honduras 1987). Decree 87-87 created 37 reserves, stipulating that the core zone limits follow the 1800m, 2000m, or 2100m contour, depending on further studies (Campanella 1993). Existing law 001-90 states that it is illegal to export wildlife. As of August of 1994, laws have been drafted for wildlife protection. Approval is expected.

Minimal environmental education exists. There are plans to increase environmental education in Honduras. Non-governmental organizations which are actively promoting conservation and wildlife education include La Red Ecologista de Honduras para el Desarrollo Sostenible (REHDES), La Fundacion Rio Plátano, Proteccion de la Mosquitia (MOPAWI), Asociacion del Medio Ambiente y Rehabilitacion de Animales Silvestres (AMARAS), Asociacion de Profesionales de la Educacion Ambiental, Fundaciones Pastor Fasquelle, Prolansate, Cueroy Salado, and Amitigra.


Hunting occurs in some areas such as the Mosquitia region (includes Rio Plátano, Tawahka, and Patuca Reserves) and northern forest remnants inhabited by native communities. However, little data are available to determine whether hunting is sustainable or depleting populations (Chalukian in litt.).

The displacement of refugees from Nicaraguan Contra-Sandanista wars caused the Honduran army to invade colonies, producing strong pressure on tapir populations throughout the Mosquitia. For example, Tawahka Reserve Indians now eat tapir meat while it was not taken by their ancestors (E. Benítez, Indigenous Tawahka pers. comm.). In 1995 tapir meat sold for US$0.20/lb. and an adult animal may sell for US$80-120. (Marineros in litt.).

Many cloud forest reserves are too small or frequently disturbed by human activities to support tapir populations. Logging and cattle ranching are the most serious threats to tapir habitats, particularly in the Mosquitia region. The agricultural frontier is rapidly pushing into biosphere reserves and colonists are establishing their subsistence crops or pastures without any control or planning (Chalukian in litt.).

It has recently been reported by the Conservation Media Center/Rainforest Alliance in San Jose, Costa Rica, that the government of Honduras has moved to relocate up to 20,000 families into the river valleys which border the Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve. The three contiguous areas in northeastern Honduras join the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua, forming the largest biological corridor in Mesoamerica. This relocation plan could seriously affect populations of Baird's tapir and other species of endangered wildlife found in this region of Honduras.



Tapirs are found on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua; in particular northeastern Nicaragua which constitutes part of a continuous connection to a large protected area in northeastern Honduras. Wildlife officials at Instituto Nicaraguenese de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente (IRENA) estimate that 200-500 tapirs exist in this portion of tropical humid forest (M. Chamacho pers. comm.), among the most extensive Atlantic lowland tropical forest left in Mesoamerica. Adjacent to Costa Rica's northern border along the San Juan River, is a large block of tropical humid forest. Estimates of tapir populations there are again between 200 and 500 animals (M. Chamacho pers. comm.). Small protected areas of humid forest in the Matagalpa District suggest more than 50 tapirs present, and in northwestern Nicaragua a protected area of tropical dry forest is believed to support less than 50 Baird's tapirs (M. Chamacho pers. comm.).

IRENA officials estimate that approximately 1000 animals can still be found within the protected areas of Nicaragua (M. Chamacho pers. comm). These are population estimates only, and are not reliable because no wildlife survey work has been undertaken since 1982-83 due to the danger of working in these forests because of military activity and the presence of land mines.

Conservation education

Asociacion Audubon de Nicaragua, Centro Estudios Ecodesarrollo para el Tropico (CECOTROPIC), and Fundacion Nicaraguenese para la Conservacion y Desarrollo (FUNCOD) are active non-governmental organizations in Nicaragua.

The Ministry of Education has a wildlife education program. Wildlife awareness programs frequently appear on television. One existing problem noted by IRENA is that the peasants (subsistence farmers) often have children who never attend school, and therefore have no access to their environmental education programs. To try and overcome this problem IRENA does produce and distribute flyers concerning wildlife and wildlife laws.


Threats to existing populations of tapir would come from increased hunting by subsistence farmers and indigenous people, as well as further destruction of habitat for agricultural purposes.

The tapir is considered a vulnerable species. However, laws are not actively enforced. A few tapirs may still be eaten by the Miskito Indians, although IRENA officials consider Miskito Indians (on the Atlantic coast) more of a hazard to wildlife through destruction of habitat.

Reports indicate that some tapir are captured for show pieces in hotels and restaurants. IRENA has proposed that an inventory of captive wildlife be taken and then no further activities such as the above be allowed.

Baird's tapir (continued)

Brooks, Daniel M.; Bodmer, Richard E.; Matola, Sharon (compilers). 1997. Tapirs - Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. (English, Spanish, Portuguese.) IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. viii + 164 pp.
Online version: http://www.tapirback.com/tapirgal/iucn-ssc/tsg/action97/cover.htm

Copyright © 1997 International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

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